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The epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state is at a care home, so naturally similar facilities in B.C. are watching developments closely.

But some are now reporting challenges ordering extra medical supplies.

“One of the issues that we’re seen right now is the supply shortages are being exacerbated by panic buying,” explained Safecare CEO Jennifer Lyle. “Fifty-seven per cent reported difficult ordering supplies.”

Despite the concern, she said they have stockpiles in place and are prepared to respond to the outbreak.

“Although, yes, this is a new disease that’s coming out, a lot of the practices, the protocols, the procedures are already well-established because they have to be," Lyle said.

The director of care at New Vista Society in Burnaby, Helle Johansen, told CTV News that they are stocked with all the supplies they need.

“Influenza season is something we all prepare for,” she said.

But COVID-19 has caught the medical community by surprise. And the growing outbreak in Washington is prompting concerns in B.C., particularly when it comes to the elderly.

That population is the most vulnerable, and there are always visitors and staff coming and going from care homes.

Twelve of the 30 firefighters and police officers who responded to calls at Lifecare in Kirkland, Wash. are now showing flu-like symptoms and all have been quarantined, city officials said.

“We follow Fraser Health’s protocol and we look for residents that are unwell,” explained Johansen. And if someone presents with symptoms, Johansen said staff would put that patient in isolation, do a nasal swab and send the sample to a lab.

“We don’t want to create panic,” she said, “but we want to make sure that we are on top of it all the time monitoring it.”

All residents with family in care homes are being asked not to come visit if they are unwell, make sure they wash their hands and wear masks if necessary.

New Vista Society staff told CTV News they have not had an outbreak this winter season.